I might have mentioned a few times that I plan to be a full time journalist. I am a non-native English speaker and have faced a few obstacles whilst looking for jobs in the UK. I did my undergraduate degree in journalism and masters degree in environmental communications, but I have been unsuccessful in finding communications jobs here.
I don’t know if my failure to get jobs in journalism has anything to do with me being a non-native or an immigrant, but because employers never tell applicants why they fail, there is this room for doubt.
I have been asked about my ethnicity in a job interview. I have been asked where I come from. Where my home is. I have been asked whether my English is good enough for a journalist.
“I can see that your spoken English is brilliant but how can I know how well you write?”
I guess you never know how well one writes unless you read some of their work. But it hurt that the editor linked this particular question about my writing skills to my ethnicity and home country.
These kind of situations are on a grey area. Of course an editor can require a journalist to have good communications skills. Of course it is normal to be curious about someone’s background. But should they ask? And if they ask, can I refuse to answer? Am I not hiding vital information if I don’ tell them that I come from a different country?
This made me wonder what other people might think about this. I interviewed other young non-native journalists as well as some professionals and experts and wrote a piece for Journo Resources about the problems non-natives may face in the UK and how bilingualism can be useful. The full article is available here.
The fact that many employers still advertise jobs for native speakers is sad. It doesn’t matter if the employer means “native-speaker or similar” to mean that you speak the language fluently, it still makes some of us non-native speakers feel like we shouldn’t even apply for the role.
Fortunately there are some possible benefits for being a bilingual which can be useful in journalism or in life in general. Of course, it is not guaranteed that every person speaking two or more languages will have superpowers, but there might be small benefits in bilingualism. Being more aware of other cultures and customs is one box easily ticked, especially if you are also bicultural. Learning to live in a different culture forces to look at things from new perspectives. I definitely have had to adjust a lot whilst adapting to new places, languages (or dialects) and cultures.